To the Editor:
It is difficult to understand the logic behind the Bike Share Program soon to be installed in Old Town, although the politics are right. This is funded in large part by an air-quality grant from the federal government and is an extension of the Bike Share program I know from Washington, D.C. Extending this service to Old Town and making the argument for air quality improvement is a nonstarter, and here’s why.
Let’s start with the most basic, fundamental and important reasons to put more bicycles on the road—they improve air quality and human health as well as mitigating climate change impact. Measured against these compelling goals the Bike Share Program for Old Town produces a resoundingly negative result. In the context of Old Town the Bike Share program isn’t even neutral, which would make it easier to justify as a long-term educational program.
How is this possible? First, as our City staff has acknowledged:
The program does not reduce normal vehicular traffic—so adding bikes increases congestion by putting seventy new vehicles on King Street;
The streets in Old Town are much narrower (as are the sidewalks) than in D.C.—so delivery trucks, emergency vehicles, weekend surges could easily force bicyclers into risky situations with little room for escape;
The bicycles themselves are redistributed by a large truck that circulates and stops to load the bikes on a regular basis—so we are actually adding truck exhaust to the air. The net result is reduced air quality, increased street congestion, and some real life safety concerns.
In addition, these are one-style bicycles that are heavy and unless you are a good rider, not so easy to control. Making these readily available to tourists—without helmets—without maps—on busy commercial and residential streets seems like taking a big chance. Will the city be liable for any accidents? Will citizens be responsible for injuries that may occur because of uneven, brick pavements—an important feature of historic Old Town? What are we thinking—or are we?
I love bikes and want to see them as more a part of our daily life here in Old Town. But as this program stands now—well, it looks more like PR spin than a program put together to succeed. Time to take it back—and put it together so that it works for all of us here in small scale Old Town. At the very least the city must monitor the Bike Share Program in its early stages, so it can adapt to fit the unique needs of our city. Then, we can count on early success turning into future grants.